Category Archives: Mutual Fund Commentary

September 1, 2017

By David Snowball

Dear friends,

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the people in Houston and the surrounding Gulf Coast. The receding flood waters end one phase of the disaster and exposes the next.

Several mutual fund families have headquarters, or significant presence, in the Houston area. Those include Ascendant, Bridgeway, Crossmark Global (formerly Capstone), Invesco, Kerns Capital, Salient, Sarofim and Continue reading →

Historically Low Volatility

By Charles Boccadoro

Experts often possess more data than judgment.

Colin Powell

The S&P 500 closed August yesterday with an annualized standard deviation below 6%. Typically, since about 1940, which marked the end of The Great Depression, annualized standard deviation runs between 13 and 14%. It was the second consecutive month to break the 6% threshold; in fact, only five times has volatility remained this low for consecutive months: 1964, 1993, 1995, 2006 and 2017.

Continue reading →

The Land of the Investment Dervishes

By David Snowball

America’s best-selling poet is a Muslim theologian who died 750 years ago. Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi (alternately, Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi) is not only namesake to Beyonce’s new child, but also founder of Sufism, a branch of Islam. Sufism is both mystical and ecstatic. Rumi was given to a whirling dance that reflects the boundless joy and energy that overwhelms a believer; it helped believers express and achieve ecstasy, was codified by his son and practiced by dervishes, literally “poor monks.” They became famous as whirling dervishes, who spun with an almost unhuman grace, energy and tenacity.

I thought of them as Continue reading →

Launch Alert: Driehaus Small Cap Growth (DVSMX)

By David Snowball

On August 21, 2017, Driehaus Capital launched Driehaus Small Cap Growth (DVSMX/DNSMX). There’s reason to pay attention.

The fund will target U.S. small cap (sub $6 billion market cap) growth stocks. The “name rule” obliges them to keep at least 80% in small caps; they allow that the other 20% might be in international stocks that trade on U.S. exchanges or larger cap equities. As is common with Driehaus, it’s a growth-centered fund likely with a fairly high portfolio turnover rate.

They’re attempting to find “fundamentally strong companies,” which obliges them to evaluate the company’s competitive position, industry dynamics, potential growth catalysts and its financial strength. They also account for comparative stock valuations and external factors (behavioral and macro-economic) likely to impact the Continue reading →

Briefly Noted

By David Snowball


PIMCO fee roulette. PIMCO is changing the advisory fees on a bunch of their funds, some up, some down, and some both. Here’s the snapshot:

PIMCO All Asset Fund (PASAX), management fees go up 0.05% for D shares.

PIMCO All Asset All Authority Fund (PAUAX) up 0.05% for D shares

PIMCO Total Return Fund (PTTAX) up 0.05% for D shares, down 0.05% for A shares.

PIMCO Unconstrained Bond Fund (PUBAX), down 0.11% for all asset Continue reading →

August 1, 2017

By David Snowball

Dear friends,

For those of us who teach, August is a bittersweet month. Each year we approach summer like a gaggle of penitent drunks. This time, we promise, it’ll be different. We’ll do better. Trust us: we will revise all of our courses for fall. We will catch up on that mountain of books heaped beside the chair. We will finish that book manuscript (Miscommunication in the Workplace, 2d ed., in my case.). On top of which, we’ll see our children without the use of small electronic devices, we’ll be out there running at 6:00 each morning, we’ll get our roughage and Continue reading →

Morningstar’s universe

By David Snowball

We regularly lament the fact that several hundred consistently four- and five-star funds have lost Morningstar analyst coverage over the years. Our almost-monthly feature “Left Behind by Morningstar” profiles a fund that once received analyst coverage but has now been ignored for five or more years. This month we profile Evermore Global Value (EVGBX / EVGIX), rated four-star for the past three years, past five years and overall. It’s a Euro-centric special situations fund run by David Marcus, whose roots are in the Mutual Series funds from the days of Michael Price’s reign. It’s both good and a good diversifier.

At the same time, we want to celebrate funds that have Continue reading →

Briefly noted

By David Snowball

The industry appears to be in full summer-beach mode, or its doing so splendidly that there’s no need to even think about changing anything. In any case, July saw the smallest number of announced changes in about five years.


Our July 2017 profile of Matthews Asia Credit Opportunities (MCRDX/MICPX) described it as investing in high-yield bonds. That’s correct but incomplete. Manager Satya Patel reminded us that the fund’s core investments can include “convertibles, hybrids and derivatives with fixed income characteristics.” Indeed, since inception convertible bonds have represented 20-25% of the portfolio. We’ve corrected the profile to reflect that. The fund has built a substantial performance advantage over its peers since inception, similar to the consistent success of its older Continue reading →

July 1, 2017

By David Snowball

Dear friends,

It’s summer time, an especially blessed and cursed interval for those of us who teach. On the one hand, we’re mostly freed from the day-to-day obligation to be in the classroom. Some of us write, some travel, some undertake “such other duties as may from time to time be assigned” by our colleges. On the other hand, we hear the clock ticking. All year long, as we try to face down a stack of 32 variably-literate essays at 11 p.m. Sunday night, we think “if I can just make it to summer, I’ll recharge and it’ll be great!” About the first thing we notice when summer does arrive, is that Continue reading →

Autonomous vehicles, huge gaping sinkholes and your portfolio

By David Snowball

I wonder, occasionally, about a world dominated by self-driving cars, sometimes called “autonomous vehicles.” GM announced in June that they’ve piloted 180 autonomous vehicles and that they’ve got the capability to begin mass production of them. For now, they’re committing $600,000,000 a year to the development.

Last year, Goldman Sachs projected that, between driver-assistance technology and autonomous vehicles, the market will grow from about $3 billion in 2015 to $96 billion in 2025 and $290 billion in 2035. One key is Continue reading →

Launch Alert: Artisan Thematic Fund (ARTTX)

By David Snowball

On April 24, 2017, Artisan Partners launched Artisan Thematic Fund (ARTTX). The managers seek to identify secular themes that will have an enduring impact on business, ideally identifying those themes sooner and more clearly than their competitors. There’s a point at which a development transitions from being geeky-cool to being a driver of corporate profits; Artisan refers to that as Continue reading →

June 1, 2017

By David Snowball

Dear friends,

And they’re off!” signals both the start of a horse race and the end of a class’s years at college.

Augustana just launched 485 more grads in your direction. It’s our 157th assault on adult life, and one of our largest. I’m pleased that Mike Daniels was the student selected to speak at commencement but he’s so durn Augie. Mike’s a defensive lineman, but also a jazz musician. He’s an accountant, but also a first team NCAA Academic All-American. He’s been to Italy (with the football team), but also managed to sneak in three internships on his way to working for Deloitte & Touche. He’s a good man who overtly rejects “good enough” as a goal; that is not, he said, Continue reading →

The Dry Powder Gang, updated

By David Snowball

“Put your trust in God but keep your powder dry.”

Oliver Cromwell, 1650, to the soldiers of the New Model Army as they prepared to forge an Irish river and head into battle.

Cromwell was a dour, humorless (or “humourless”) religious fanatic charged with squashing every Catholic and every independent thought in the British Isles because, well, that’s what God demanded. Famine, plague, deportations, mass death and deportations followed.

But even Cromwell knew that the key to victory was Continue reading →

Time to put on your big-boy pants and check your investments

By David Snowball

As I noted in my publishers letter this month, this article, originally published in May, contained a substantial and utterly boneheaded mathematical error. After we published it, two things happened: first, readers took the article seriously enough to find the error and report it; second, our colleague Charles, substantially revised the method for calculating the maximum drawdown for funds in my portfolio which haven’t been around for a full market cycle. Because those changes were material, we decided to re-present this article as a public service.

Sorry, I don’t have a really gender-neutral alternatives to “big-boy pants.”

In all likelihood, you might expect to experience considerable ugliness in financial markets in the months ahead. That’s not a timing call, it’s a statement of the obvious.

What’s behind it?

The bull market in stocks is Continue reading →

Briefly noted

By David Snowball

It’s been an unusually busy month in the industry, with nearly three dozen funds liquidated or slated for liquidation, as well as a surprising number of open funds closing to new investors and closed funds opening to them. And, as ever, the “smoke and marketing” crowd has re-branded a bunch of funds; most, not surprisingly, aren’t very good. Continue reading →

May 1, 2017

By David Snowball

Dear friends,

The theory says that our academic year ends in two weeks. As I gazed this morning across rows of slightly-stunned faces, I realized that the college’s schedule and the students’ don’t always align.

With the weather turning toward summer, the lawn calling and the campus in bloom, I’m intensely sympathetic. Continue reading →

Morningstar Investment Conference 2017: Six smart guys

By David Snowball

I’ll tell you about the six smart guys. They represent a bit over half of the interviews and discussions I participated in during Morningstar’s annual Fest at the McCormick. My normal schedule mixed one-on-one interactions with sitting in on panels and keynote presentations; the changing emphasis of the conference, rather away from hearing from mutual fund managers and strategists, and toward the business concerns of the advisors, led me to focus exclusively on talking with interesting folks.

Many of these interviews will serve as the seedbeds for upcoming fund profiles. In particular, we hope to celebrate Continue reading →

Launch Alert: Rondure Overseas Fund and Rondure New World Fund

By David Snowball

On May 1, 2017, Rondure Global Advisors, headquartered in Salt Lake City and one of the nation’s few woman-owned fund advisers, launched Rondure New World Fund (RNWIX/RNWOX) and Rondure Overseas Fund (ROSIX/ROSOX ). Rondure Global operates in partnership with Grandeur Peak Global, which offers back office and trading support, as well as the opportunity for collegial investment discussions. Rondure’s founder, CEO and lead portfolio manager is Laura Geritz, who describes this partnership as “one of our key competitive advantages” since it will give her the opportunity, rare for a manager launching a new firm, to focus on investment rather than management.

Both funds will follow the same Continue reading →

Briefly Noted . . .

By David Snowball

On April 20, 2017, UMB announced that it signed an agreement to sell Scout Investments and Reams Asset Management to Carillon Tower Adviser, a wholly owned subsidiary of Raymond James. In announcing its 2016 creation, James described Carillon as “new company to provide transparency and create efficiencies among its asset management firms.” As I note in our story on the Morningstar interviews, Carillon wasn’t particularly transparent and the guy representing Scout was curt to the point of being rude.

Sentinel Asset Management has agreed to sell its mutual funds to Touchstone. Details aren’t yet available.

The previously announced plan to Continue reading →